Bang and Olufsen with Google Assistant Sets a New Standard in Premium Smart Speaker Pricing at $2,250
Bang and Olufsen (B&O) today announced the September availability of two new smart speakers with Google Assistant inside. The flagship Beosound 2 has a suggested retail price of $2,250/€2,000/£1,650 with the Beosound 1 at a more economical $1,750/€1,500/£1,250. A single announcement has recast the “premium” concept and created a “super premium” smart speaker category. There are several smart speakers in the $200 – $400 range, including Sonos One, multiple offerings from Harman Kardon, Apple HomePod and Google Home Max. The oversized Google Home Max was seen as the upper end of the premium segment at $399. That pricing puts it at less than 25% the cost of the entry level B&O model. Oh, and Google Home Max is much smaller that the Beosound 2 which comes in at 43 cm high and 4.1 kg.
A Focus on Audio Quality and Design
B&O is targeting a different type of consumer than the premium smart speakers listed above. “No matter how smart, we still believe the sound experience is the essential part of any speaker,” says the online product description. Bang & Olufsen director of the staged and flexible speaker categories Petros Belimpasakis commented:
We are on an exciting journey to bring the convenience of voice technology across the portfolio to our audience of design-conscious customers, who expect the highest standards in terms of sound and craftmanship.
Most speaker manufactures outside the value segment decided in 2017 that they could no longer compete effectively without including voice assistant functionality. As a result, we have seen most of the segment leaders add Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana or Google Assistant to their new models. Some speaker makers have even introduced multiple models so they could provide options for more than one voice assistant.
For B&O, the calculation almost certainly was different. The music listening experience is simply more convenient and more robust when accessible through a voice assistant. Smart home control and access to the weather are more of a nice-to-have. The current premium segment speaker manufacturers were concerned about losing market share to their voice assistant-adopting peers and also to Amazon and Google directly. The presence of smart speakers in the premium or value segments created a risk of displacement. B&O was likely unconcerned about a consumer replacing one of their speakers in favor of an Alexa or Google device. Instead, voice interaction offers their users a better experience.
Beosound 1 and 2 Product Features
Just in case Google Assistant doesn’t meet all of your needs, the Beosound 1 and 2 also include support for Chromecast and AirPlay 2. The devices also include touch controls with four “favorite” buttons on the top of the speakers. The product announcement states that the buttons allows users, “to assign tasks to a single button. Commands you would use often, such as streaming a radio station, your favourite music playlist, reading out the weather report or what is in your calendar for today can be assigned to a single button. The buttons are content agnostic, so they work with any device and music service that are Google Assistant compatible.” The speakers also have sensors so it knows what direction you are approaching from and will adjust the buttons accordingly.
Beosound 1 is portable with a rechargeable battery, but Beosound 2 requires a, “permanent power connection to produce its vigorous output.” B&O says the speakers will be available in all of the 14 markets that currently support Google Assistant including: Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, Spain, United Kingdom, and USA. The company says that more countries will follow as Google Assistant extends availability.